Western Australian ship builder Austal has submitted a proposal the the Tasmania ferry replacement task force, stating they would build the hulls of the steel mono hull vessels in the Philippines and bring them to Australia to finish the fitting out. Although the full details are unknown of how all this would take place.
“We believe that a split-build vessel construction program can see over half the labour content of each vessel built here in Australia and particularly in Tasmania, potentially creating thousands of jobs,” Austal chief executive David Singleton said.
“Australia is currently unable to construct large steel monohulls, and the TT-Line vessel replacement process offers an opportunity to change that.”
State Labor infrastructure spokesman Shane Broad said it appeared Austal’s proposal would see the majority of the work done in the Philippines rather than Australia.
“The problem that we’ve got is that the boatyard in the Philippines has never built vessels of this size or this type,” he said. “[The government has] taken all the evidence TT-Line has put in front of them, they’ve dismissed that and we’re going down a road now where companies are throwing up proposals,” he said.
In 2018, the government awarded a $700 million contract to German shipbuilder Flensburger Schiffbau-Gesellschaf to construct the vessels, after the company was endorsed by the TT-Line board over other shortlisted shipbuilders.
But after FSG encountered financial trouble, the government cancelled the contract and signed a memorandum of understanding with Rauma Marine Constructions, a Finnish company. However, in February, this was mixed, too, with the government establishing a taskforce to examine opportunities to build the ships in Australia.
Incat chief executive Bob Clifford said Austal was entitled to put forward its proposal but added that it didn’t “stack up” and wouldn’t be able to create the same number of jobs as his company’s proposal.
“I can assure you that we’ll be putting ideas forward to the taskforce that won’t be employing 3000 people in the Philippines,” Mr Clifford said. “It’ll be employing 2000, at least, in Tasmania. We feel very confident that we can offer a deal to the taskforce that’ll take some beating.”
Infrastructure Minister Michael Ferguson said Austal’s interest in building the new Spirits “vindicates” the government’s establishment of a taskforce.
“It would not be appropriate to comment on the specifics of Austal’s proposal at this time,” Mr Ferguson said.
“In principle, we welcome the new interest of Austal as an Australian manufacturer and look forward to receiving advice from the taskforce on all of the potential options that are available to us in due course.”
The proposal has been slammed by the Tasmanian opposition.
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure said:
:Creating jobs in the Philippines and WA, not Tasmania
:Industry set to suffer due to replacement delays
:Government needs to listen to TT-Line
“The proposal by Western Australian company Austal to build the new Spirit of Tasmania replacement vessels in the Philippines won’t give the benefit to Tasmania the government has been promising.
Shadow Minister for Infrastructure Shane Broad said the proposal raises significant questions about whether any additional Tasmanian jobs will be created.
“The government talked about its desire to create more Tasmanian jobs when it cancelled the most recent contract to replace the Spirit vessels, but this proposal falls flat.
“Austal is proposing to use a shipyard in the Philippines that has never built vessels of the size and design we need, and completing the fitout in Western Australia using some Tasmanian companies and products.
“Using Tasmanian products during the fitout was part of previous contracts with the German and Finnish shipyards, so nothing has changed.
“Where are the new Tasmanian jobs the government is promising to deliver, and how much more is this going to cost taxpayers?
“We are seeing Tasmanian jobs at risk due to the constant delays with replacing the Spirit vessels, in industries like tourism, aquaculture and agriculture – ones that can’t afford to lose more jobs waiting until at least 2028 to see the vessels operating.
“Austal put a proposal forward to TT-Line previously, but it didn’t even make the shortlist.
“The government has a long history of missing the mark when it comes to infrastructure. It and its taskforce needs to listen to TT-Line if it is to create the jobs Tasmanian’s desperately need.””
These are all valid points, and any one who know a little about Ro/Pax building knows that many yards have tried, but it has killed them, even after years of experience (HDW Keil comes to mind after 6 Superfast builds)